One theory posits that the aroma is linked with summertime memories of road trips, jet ski rides, and classic cars. For [perfumer Pia] Long, the smell of gasoline is “a cool, nostalgic smell”: She grew up in Finland in the ’70s, when motorsports were popular and tailpipe emissions were strong, and associates it with her childhood. It’s also possible that gasoline unconsciously reminds us of other early experiences. Benzene is one of the 20 most widely used chemicals in the United States, according to the American Cancer Society, and has made its way into many detergents, pesticides, and plastics — so some have suggested that people could be associating it with that “new toy” smell of childhood.
— Read more in Saying goodbye to the dangerous, alluring scent of gasoline at Grist.